Homilies,  Sunday,  Year B

4th Sunday of Easter – ANZAC 2021

Throughout the Season of Easter, we reflect week by week on the ways in which the life of the Risen Christ is experienced by us. Over this last week in the liturgy the focus has been on the Eucharist as the means by which the life of the Risen Christ is given to us.  And on this the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we reflect on how the life of the Risen Christ comes to greet us through the quality of our shepherding of one another – i.e., the way we identify with one another, carry one another’s burdens, and gently lead one another along the path of our discipleship of Jesus.  

Indeed, through the entire season of Easter, we are celebrating the power of sacrificial love ‑ a love that gives itself over to something beyond ourselves, a love that is prepared to die so that something else, someone else, might rise. In the Resurrection of Jesus, we are proclaiming the deepest possibility of such a sacrificial love.  It is this love which alone triumphs over the entombment of egoism and fear, and which shines a light in the midst of our human darkness that no shadow can overpower.

It is of course, the power that we celebrate in our annual memorial of ANZAC. ANZAC assumes its significance for us as a nation, I believe, because of the way in which it mirrors back to us where we believe we are strongest in our Australian spirit.  It is why we remember the battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula in a far distant land.  The glory of that battle resides in no military victory about which to boast.  The glory of that battle lies in the stories of mates supporting one another in the face of an utter calamity.  Then, as in many other instances of calamity, that spirit becomes our celebration in those we now call the modern day ANZACs – those people in our communities who give of themselves, without thought to their own comfort, to help others in their need, those who live out the phrase, “We’ll be there for them.”

In this spirit, each of us is called to be shepherd to one another: to attend to each other, to encourage one another, to be ready to both lead and follow, to be there for one another. And all of this occurs in the simple gestures of life.

In his beautiful letter to us several years ago, On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, Pope Francis writes:

“This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.”

And so, as he observes about us all,

“I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile.  . . .Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence . . .”[2]

As Pope Francis concludes, “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others . . . Each community is called to create a “God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord.  Sharing the word and celebrating the Eucharist together fosters fraternity and makes us a holy and missionary community . . . A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan.”[3]

In this we learn the power of sacrificial love at the heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd; and we remain true to the memory of those who have died in the spirit of ANZAC.


[1] Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsulate, “On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World,” Apostolic Exhortation, (19 March 2018), nn. 14-18.

[2] Gaudete et Exsulate, n. 7.

[3] Gaudete et Exsulate, nn, 141, 145.

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